Roberto Cavalli S/S16
Roberto Cavalli S/S16

Facing one’s own mortality isn’t easy, especially when one has been such a major force in fashion such as Roberto Cavalli. Yet, with his health failing and industry demands unending, Cavalli had little choice but to step back from taking the lead on his eponymous label. Earlier this year, he appointed Peter Dundas, most recently creative director for Emilio Pucci, to take over the reigns of the Cavalli line. When the announcement was made back in the Spring, it was inferred that Cavalli would still be involved, still be keeping an eye on things, just not as into the everyday operations as he had been. Yet, when it came to this morning’s runway presentation, it was all Dundas. If Cavalli was anywhere on the grounds, he was well hidden and completely out of the public eye. The torch has, apparently, been passed.

The Roberto Cavalli brand is known for its luxury and opulence. In years past, Cavalli has reinforced that point by staging his shows on glamorous sets that resembled one of his branded night clubs (yes, Cavalli has his own night clubs) and then spent the time between seasons cruising around the Mediterranean on his yacht. Roberto Cavalli is an expensive brand that looks expensive for all the #RichKidsOfInstagram. So, from the very outset of this morning’s show, it appeared that Dundas might be toning things down a bit. His set was the courtyard of the ancient Senate Palace, modified with scaffolding that held up a temporary ceiling and from which hung the large array of lights. A temporary wood floor provided more stable footing than the centuries-old cobblestone would. The changes were functional, but the aesthetic was definitely more industrial, not the high-end luxury we’re used to seeing.

Don’t worry, clothes still have that expensive look to them, even if it is largely taken from Cavalli’s 80s catalogue. The problem comes that Dundas’ take on the house brand just doesn’t work. The opening look is a pink suede vest over abstract dyed suede leggings and suede heels. This is a look that no sensible person is going to be caught wearing in public. Granted, there is definitely less sparkle at the beginning of the collection, but it feels more like the looks were dumbed down rather than creatively re-imagined.

Perhaps what is most mystifying is Dundas’ continued insistence on adding long, billowing trains to short skirts and dresses. Mind you, these trains are not attached to the garment; they wrap around and secured with a hoop tie in the front. Those might work if one is a professional flamenco dancer, but outside that occupation these trains just get in the way, as we saw on the runway anytime two similarly adorned models tried passing.

There is still some sense of the Cavalli bling. There are a fair number of metallics but when Dundas tries to pair them with beaded fringe on distressed blue jeans the ensemble fails miserably. There are some individual pieces, such as the laser-cut suede tops, that could work quite well when properly matched with something more appropriate, but then Dundas comes at us with some ill-conceived gowns that look like little more than chiffon flapping in the wind.

In the end, this was a very confusing and ill-thought presentation of a confusing and disjointed collection that has very little of the Roberto Cavalli look to which we are accustomed. Designers tend to get a pass with their first collection for a new house, be Dundas needs to step up his game quickly or he’ll ruin what was already a struggling brand. Hopefully, Cavalli can see this and keep a close eye on things for the next season.

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